Becker Mining SA’s Smartcom® VHF leaky feeder system offers the mining sector multiple simultaneous voice and data radio channels, with low intermodulation noise levels, to ensure clear and reliable communications underground, at all times. This system, which ensures dependable underground communications, has advanced technological features for reliability, flexibility and low maintenance requirements.
“A critical feature in the mining sector is the need for reliable and clear communication systems – especially in underground mining conditions,” says Rick Jacobs, Senior General Manager: Mechanical, Becker Mining South Africa. “The Becker Smartcom VHF leaky feeder system meets the highest quality and safety standards expected in mining communications and is known globally for optimum performance and absolute dependability, in arduous working conditions.
“We understand that one standard system doesn’t meet the specifications of every installation, which is why we design our leaky feeder systems to suit exact mine sizes, requirements, and budgets. This future-proof, advanced leaky feeder system, with a modular design and the latest technological enhancements, features the option of local and remote diagnostic amplifiers with manual and automatic gain control, to ensure every installation and subsequent upgrade and maintenance procedures are safe and effortless.
“Critical features of the VHF system include the widest bandwidth and highest RF gain amplifiers available, a common amplifier platform, automatic and manual gain modes, a supply voltage range from 5 Vdc to 36 Vdc and a two-year component and workmanship warranty.”
Applications for Becker leaky feeder systems include mine wide voice communication networks, medium speed mobile data, local and portable video monitoring, as well as distributed control and monitoring networks. This system is also designed for wide area antenna coverage.
The low-maintenance Smartcom system provides multiple simultaneous noise-free voice and data radio channels, offering one of the lowest cost of ownership systems on the market. Narrowband radio modems can also be used to provide a 9600 bps (bits per second) fixed/mobile data connection over the entire coverage area of the leaky feeder network.
The industry leading 30 MHz bandwidth allows multiple voice and data channels that operate simultaneously, with low intermodulation noise levels. The RF gain pilotless (in manual mode) amplifier, with automatic and manual gain modes, allow amplifiers to be installed at greater distances along the network, reducing the required components. The automatic gain mode allows the amplifiers to intelligently alter gain levels independently, as the system grows and changes. This mode effectively reduces system maintenance requirements and costs.
Smartcom does not require a return pilot signal to operate, which is an important advantage for users. In automatic mode, the amplifier makes use of a forward pilot system that is more advanced than systems that utilise a return pilot. In automatic mode, the product monitors the RF strength of the forward pilot signal from the base station at each amplifier and automatically adjusts to ensure the communications network is running at its optimum, even as the system is being reconfigured.
Return pilots are the weakest link in any leaky feeder system, as they are installed to control the gain of all amplifiers in the network if a pilot fails or cable is damaged. System components will adjust to maximum gain and create significant system noise making voice communication difficult and frustrating. Generally, return pilot systems require dedicated communication technicians or maintenance contracts with the OEMs to regularly maintain and monitor the communications system. This is costly in terms of downtime and maintenance and also reduces the overall safety and production benefits of the communication system.
The Smartcom VHF leaky feeder system is designed with local diagnostics via three on board LED indicators as standard. This unit facilitates fault finding and system troubleshooting, by quickly being able to identify the faulty component and communicate relevant information on the display unit, thus reducing downtime and repair costs. This amplifier is suitable for installations that don’t require the added expense of Ethernet and where remote diagnostics are not necessary. Becker also manufactures a complete range of power supplies, designed to withstand the harsh conditions of underground mines. Power supplies can be spaced up to 8000 m apart.
In addition, Smartcom supports telemetry and can be used for effectively controlling underground environmental monitoring systems and motor protection (ventilation fans and pump motors and cavitation). This advanced system is also used to control cable theft, asset and personnel tagging and tracking, as well as conveyor management systems, including rip detection, pull key systems and conveyor motor protection.
Important information is communicated efficiently back to mine control systems for optimum productivity and enhance safety. These Smartcom products support both analogue and digital radio repeaters, providing the flexibility of choice of radio infrastructure.
Smartcom systems are compatible with other leaky feeder systems and can be installed in existing networks. The majority of Smartcom installations worldwide make use of Becker’s industry leading remote diagnostic amplifier. This unit has the functionality to send information to a server installed on the surface, enabling a control room operator to retrieve relevant information, such as DC line voltage, downstream RF power, the automatic gain control / manual gain control modes and attenuator settings via a web-based user interface. This is particularly useful in the event of a system fault, as the operator can easily identify precisely where the problem is and what equipment may be needed to repair the fault.
The user-friendly web-based software, which brought the Smartcom system to the forefront of leaky feeder diagnostics, is available with OPC server connectivity, allowing maximum inter-operability with other SCADA/HMI applications or any other OPC compatible client, such as Becker’s own MineView software application package.
Robust Smartcom VHF leaky feeder systems can be upgraded at any time to suit the changing technological and budgetary requirements of every mine. With the simple installation of an upgrade kit, advancement of the system is completed on site. This upgrade kit allows remote monitoring of the line amplifier and access to data that includes DC line voltage, downstream RF power, the automatic gain control / manual gain control modes and attenuator settings.
Becker Mining offers critical solutions to the mining industry, which encompass energy distribution, automation and communication, as well as transportation and roof support systems. The company offers a technical advisory and support service to mines and general industry throughout Southern Africa.